Once Bitten, Twice Shy

Album: Twice Shy (1989)
Charted: 83 5
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Songfacts®:

  • The Los Angeles-based Great White had their biggest hit with "Once Bitten, Twice Shy," a cover of a 1975 song by Ian Hunter. The band had a shark motif going, and named their 1987 album Once Bitten. For the follow-up in 1989, they named the album ...Twice Shy, completing the expression, which means avoiding what hurt you in the past. Covering Hunter's song pulled it all together and worked out very well; the original wasn't a hit in America, so most listeners assumed it was written by Great White.
  • The song is about life on the road as a rock and roll band, and the ladies they encounter along the way. "We loved it because it was about being on the road, which was our whole thing," Great White guitarist Mark Kendall told Songfacts. "We never went home. We were just literally on the road all time, so it fit in that sense."
  • Great White wasn't familiar with this song; it was Izzy Stradlin of Guns N' Roses who had the idea for them to cover it. Both bands were managed by Alan Niven, who also co-produced the ...Twice Shy album. Stradlin suggested it to Niven, who brought it to Great White.
  • There's a history of American rock bands breaking through with covers of songs by British artists: Joan Jett And The Blackhearts did it with "I Love Rock And Roll" and Quiet Riot with "Cum On Feel The Noize." Great White, though, didn't think this song was going to be a hit.

    "It wasn't a case where we were trying to hunt down some kind of a bitchin' cover song to do," Mark Kendall told Songfacts. "It was never the intention to make that the single, it just turned out so darn good that the record company goes, 'There it is. That's it. That's the one!'"
  • Great White changed a few lyrics from the original, making the "Greyhound bus" a "grey tour bus." Hunter sings the chorus as "I, I, I..." but Great White lead singer Jack Russell made it "My, my, my..."
  • The music video, directed by Nigel Dick, was huge on MTV. It shows that band performing the song in a warehouse with a bunch of lady friends, then heading out on their tour bus. One of the video vixens is Bobbie Brown, star of Warrant's "Cherry Pie" video.
  • Great White's demise was like so many: gradual at first, then all at once.

    They released their debut album in 1984, and
    The ...Twice Shy album was their fourth. By this time, they had gradually built a following, with each album since their 1984 debut doing substantially better than the last. Once Bitten sold a million copies thanks to tracks like "Save Your Love" and "Rock Me"; ...Twice Shy sold 2 million, largely because of this song.

    But when grunge moved in, it displaced hair metal acts like Great White, and the band struggled. By 2003 they were playing small venues to a few hundred people each night. One of these shows was at The Station Nightclub in Rhode Island, which turned tragic when the band's pyrotechnics started a fire that killed 100 people including their guitarist, Ty Longley. No member of Great White was criminally charged, but their tour manager did jail time.

    In the aftermath, the band tried doing benefit concerts, but that just made things worse. Survivors and families of the victims asked the band not to speak of the incident, as it seemed to open old wounds when they did.

    Jack Russell, who had a long history of addiction and health problems, unravelled completely by 2010 and suffered a fall that put him in a coma. Mark Kendall kept the band going but with a new lead singer: Terry Ilous, who was replaced by Mitch Malloy in 2018. Russell got better and formed his own version of the group: Jack Russell's Great White, which released their first album in 2017. By this time, it was common for both version of the group to be touring concurrently, especially in the summer.

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